Fall Appeal

To GAC members and the creative community of Guelph,

When discussing “the state of the arts”, I can find it easy to default to familiar and often repeated narratives. As a musician, I tend to reach for the systemic struggles that afflict most workers in my trade: the traditional music venue model becoming nonviable; public music education being regarded as frivolous; streaming services eschewing any semblance of fair compensation for artists, while simultaneously influencing listener expectations towards favouring mechanised content over art.

These kinds of concerns are far from unique to the music sector, and every artistic practice is grappling with familiar struggles. It can be all too easy to take these narratives as gospel, as an inevitable decline of art in the face of austerity and privatisation.

As tempting as it can be to submit to these defeatist narratives, it is paramount that we challenge them and seek solutions. Further, it is absolutely essential that these solutions are sought collectively.

Here is where organisations like Guelph Arts Council are beyond necessary.

As an entity run by artists, for artists, there is no better incubator for creative solutions to complex problems within this community. GAC holds immense strength and potential as a hub for creativity, a meeting place between artistic milieu, and a space to inspire empathy. This potential has only begun to be explored via the new artBar location and micro-granting programs – there is plenty more to come.

2023 has seen immense change and growth for GAC in almost every aspect, and through it all our staff and volunteers have been unflinching in their dedication to supporting the arts in our town. I am eternally grateful for all they do, and unendingly inspired by how they do it.

Here are some highlights from this year:

  • Partnering with the City of Guelph and the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition, we launched the Activating Community Micro-grant and funded over 30 local projects.
  • GAC actively participated in the drafting and passing of Guelph’s first Culture Plan.
  • Over 2000 people have passed through the artBar doors since opening in June. Through partnerships and affordable rentals GAC has saved local arts organisations close to $50,000 in the first six months of having our doors open.
  • The Guelph Emerging Artist Mentorship Program continues to pair young artists with established mentors.
  • Art On The Street once again filled Quebec Street with artistic vision.
  • We have continued to provide one-on-one assistance to artists in the community.
  • We have partnered with and provided material/logistical support to many organisations, such as: The Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, Guelph Jazz Festival, Guelph Film Festival, Guelph Fringe Festival, Vocamus Writers Group, Downtown Theatre Project, Bookshelf Cinema, Guelph 48 Hour Film Challenge.
  • The introduction of a summer youth program, designed to encourage, inspire and welcome the artists of tomorrow.

I find active and ecstatic hope in the act of solving problems with, and for, my community. This problem solving is best done in the company of neighbours, and I invite you to join me and the rest of GAC in doing our best to find solutions as creatives do. If the spirit moves you and your means allow, we would greatly appreciate your vote of confidence in helping to fund a future in Guelph that is vibrant and vivacious, with artists leading the way.

Mary Oliver wrote that “In creative work — creative work of all kinds — those who are the world’s working artists are not trying to help the world go around, but forward.”

I don’t know how to make the world go forward, but we can start with Guelph.
In gratitude, solidarity, and creativity,

Braden Phelan, 
GAC Board Chair



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